Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office sent a cease-and-desist letter Friday to a former official who has claimed his bosses nixed a lawsuit six years ago against Trump University, the beleaguered school tied to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
In a letter dated Friday, First Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Mateer asks John Owens to "immediately cease and desist from disclosing any privileged or confidential information" from his time in the office, which ended when he retired in 2011. Owens, the former deputy chief of the consumer protection division, told reporters Thursday that then-Attorney General Greg Abbott gave Trump special treatment when he declined to pursue a $5.4 million lawsuit against Trump University.
"Current and former Assistant Attorneys General have a duty to follow all rules related to the practice of law in the state of Texas,” Mateer said in a statement. "While everyone has First Amendment rights to free speech, the law strictly prohibits attorneys from releasing confidential and privileged information."
The letter lays out a half dozen provisions Owens may have violated under state law and the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The provisions center on the possession and distribution of confidential materials related to state investigations.
Owens issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.
"I have done nothing illegal or unethical as stated in the letter," Owens said. "I think the information I provided to the press was important and needed to be shared with the public."
Earlier Friday, former Deputy Attorney General David Morales issued a statement saying he, not Abbott, decided to pass on the lawsuit and that his his decision was not influenced by the fact the company was associated with Trump. He said that Trump University agreed to suspend its Texas operations as the state was demanding documents, and in 2010 agreed to permanently leave.
Abbott is facing a new wave of questions about the investigation into Trump University as Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton makes it an issue in her race against Trump. More than three years after the probe effectively ended, Abbott received two donations from Trump totaling $35,000 in his run for governor.
On Friday afternoon, Abbott made his feelings known about those suggesting a connection between the conclusion of the investigation and the campaign contributions.
"Story is bogus," Abbott tweeted. "A few journalists peddling their agenda rather than getting all the facts tank the profession."